2019-11-20 AUSTRALIA

Kenneth John Preston

Kenneth John was born at Fitzroy North on 16 November 1922. His father, Harold Claude was a wood carver and his mother, Hannah Mary (nee Sullivan) was a fulltime wife and mother. There were four children, Harold (who died aged 20 in 1937), Frank (who was killed, aged 22 while on an RAF mission over Holland in 1942), Ken and Shirley (Sister Mary RSJ). Ken’s early schooling was at Christian Brothers Parade College in East Melbourne, and when his family moved to Adelaide he continued at Christian Brothers Wakefield Street.

After completing his schooling in Adelaide Ken began work in the PMG. On his 19th birthday he received his ‘call up papers’ and was ordered to report to Hindmarsh Barracks for the “purpose of going into camp”. In typical fashion when the recruiting officer was called out of the room Ken checked what he had written: “grossly underweight but medically classified” was the verdict! He joined the 2/14th Field regiment (Artillery) of the 8th Division, was in Darwin at the time of the Japanese attacks, travelled in convoy across the Northern Territory and Queensland, saw active service in Papua New Guinea and was in Rabaul for the formal Japanese surrender on 1 September 1945. He finished his service at Loveday Internment Camp and was discharged on 4 April 1946. Ken has noted “I had served in the army for 1233 days”. Ken was the last remaining Australian Brother who saw active service in World War Two.

After the War Ken worked again for the PMG and during this time felt called to the vocation of a teaching Brother. He contacted the Christian Brothers, but then opted for the Marist Brothers. However, before he could start his training, he was posted as an aspirant to Northam where he taught as Mr Preston.

In December 1952, at age 31, he joined a group of much younger men at Mittagong. Apparently when visiting Brothers came to the novitiate, Br Arcadius would point him out and say in a quiet voice, "He's a late vocation, actually," with a significant pause before adding the last word. Ken delighted in referring to himself in similar terms. He received the habit and the religious name Baylon in July 1953, and took First Vows the following year. He professed final vows in 1960 at Mt Gambier.

It was in Forbes-Parkes that he made his mark. He was Principal of three schools there: Red Bend from 1966-1969; Holy Family Parkes from 1977-1982 and St Laurence’s Forbes from 1983-1987. In all he spent 44 Years in the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes. In 2010 he was named the Forbes Citizen of the Year in recognition of his “tireless service” to the community.


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